Frontier Adventure

12 Pro Tips For Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter

By Michael Lanza

Staying warm while skiing or riding at resorts or in the backcountry, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, or running in winter is a constant challenge: We sweat, our clothes get damp, and then we have periods of reduced exertion like riding a ski lift or walking or running downhill, when we cool down. But as humans have known for thousands of years, it’s a matter of smartly managing and insulating our body’s furnace (and today we have much better technical clothing than animal skins).

As a longtime skier (downhill, Nordic, and backcountry), hiker, and trail runner who runs hot when moving, cools off quickly, and gets cold fingers and toes easily, I’ve learned many tricks over four decades of getting outdoors in frigid temperatures and working for many years as a past field editor for Backpacker magazine and running this blog.

In fact, my coldest winter experience was camping on a couple of nights that dropped to -30° F/-34° C in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. (I don’t recommend it.) Most people, of course, don’t face extreme conditions in winter. But even in the temperatures most of us encounter in whatever form of recreation we enjoy in the coldest season, we’ve all known moments of wishing we felt warmer—and sometimes those moments last longer than we’d prefer. Follow these tips and you will be vastly more comfortable when enjoying the outdoors in winter.

Please tell me what you think of my tips, ask any questions, or share your own tricks in the comments section at the bottom of this story. I try to respond to all comments. Thanks.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backcountry skier in Idaho’s Boise Mountains.
” data-image-caption=”A backcountry skier in Idaho’s Boise Mountains.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Bois14-006-bw.jpg?fit=300%2C170&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Bois14-006-bw.jpg?fit=900%2C510&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Bois14-006-bw.jpg?resize=900%2C510&ssl=1″ alt=”A backcountry skier in Idaho’s Boise Mountains.” class=”wp-image-36862″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Bois14-006-bw.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Bois14-006-bw.jpg?resize=300%2C170&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Bois14-006-bw.jpg?resize=1024%2C580&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Bois14-006-bw.jpg?resize=768%2C435&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Bois14-006-bw.jpg?resize=1080%2C612&ssl=1 1080w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />A backcountry skier in Idaho’s Boise Mountains.

#1 Move

Clothing does not produce heat, it only helps trap the heat that your body produces and protects you from wind and precipitation. Anytime you get cold, the single best strategy for rewarming is to start moving or increase your pace. Watch others in your group for signs that they’re cold, especially children, who have less body fat and mass and cool off more quickly than adults. When you take a break, make it short, to avoid cooling off. If someone has visibly cooled off faster than others during a break, have that person start moving ahead of the group; you will regroup before long.

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#2 Pace Yourself

Minimizing how much you perspire in cold temperatures is critical to keeping warm, because
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